And now for something completely different (cogent Monty Python reference).
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about "the letter." U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a rather direct missive to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz urging the FTC to launch an investigation into the sudden rise in gasoline prices. And it has a Bay Area angle.
According to DiFi’s dispatch, “The recent price spike began on August 6th, when a refinery fire at Chevron’s Richmond Refinery reduced refining capacity at the state’s third largest refinery. However, this dangerous incident has not resulted in a reduction of gasoline supply that would explain the recent rapid price increase.”
O.K., I give – what’s the deal? (And don’t get me wrong – I think it’s terrific what she has done; is doing; and, will do.) First, the Senator takes on frivolous lawsuits over handicapped ‘violations,’ telling Speaker of the CA Assembly John Perez, in essence, “if you don’t fix it – I will,” as she threatened to introduce federal legislation to quell the scam.
(Short Attention Explanation: Attorneys and conspirator plaintiffs are suing small businesses and owners of multi-family housing complexes over technical violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA]. Average cost to have them drop the action is $4,000-$8,000 and they average more than 1,000 complaints in the course of any given month. Talk about abrogating the original intent of the ADA... and yes, these denizens have hit San Mateo County.)
Lo and behold, Senate Bill 1186 – which received bipartisan support and is now awaiting action by Gov. Brown – was churned out by the CA Senate leaders - President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and by Republican Sen. Bob Dutton of Rancho Cucamonga. SB 1186 takes aim at these lawyers who threaten access lawsuits even if the owners demonstrate good faith in serving customers with disabilities.
A key element of SB 1186 is that potential damages for disability access violations would drop from a minimum of $4,000 to $2,000 in some cases and to $1,000 in others, if the defendant corrected violations very quickly… assuring attorneys and conspirator plaintiffs can’t make a decent living (he wrote tongue firmly in cheek.)
Now it’s gas prices. In fact, she noted the prices have risen 30 cents per gallon since the Richmond debacle. “As a result, California has the highest gas prices in the continental United States. The increase is more than double the increase in the national average over the same period,” Feinstein wrote.
Mind you, she’s doing all this AND maintaining her Senatorial assignments. Just to name a few: Chair of the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; member of the just as powerful Defense Committee; and, member of the (yup, powerful) Senate Committee on Appropriations (you know the folks who write the legislation that allocates federal funds and which has 12 subcommittees!)
Feinstein noted in her letter. “Gasoline sales in California have fallen from 8.5 million gallons per day in 2006 to 4.9 million gallons per day this year, as drivers switch to more-fuel-efficient cars and elect to utilize public transit. California refiners have been exporting fuel, and have been operating well below their capacity. Despite this drop in demand, and a clear excess in capacity, Californians have continued to endure unusually high gasoline prices when compared to their neighbors to which fuel refined in California is being exported.”
She’s asking the same question thousands of Californians (heck, many more Americans) are asking. The Senator is grappling with normal issues affecting normal people… so this is just a note to say, “Thank you Senator Feinstein.”